For years, we were told to brush and floss. But have we been doing it backward?
As a child, we were told to brush and floss – in that order. But recent studies suggest that we should be flossing first and then brushing. By flossing first, food and other particles are loosened and removed. Brushing becomes more effective because most of the work has been done. The study also showed that by brushing second, fluoride from the toothpaste remained in the mouth at higher levels than when patients brushed first and then flossed.
This is promising for orthodontic patients who need every edge in fighting demineralization around their brackets where brushing can be tricky. Demineralization can lead to white spots where the enamel has weakened and even tooth decay.
Of course, just flossing before you brush won't save your smile. The commitment to caring for your orthodontics between visits is as important as seeing your orthodontist for regular adjustments.
Not taking care of your mouth increases your risk of poor oral health, even if you don't have braces. Not cleaning around your braces and the in-between spaces properly can create a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause decay. When your teeth aren't cleaned properly, food particles and sugary residue from sodas and sports drinks stick to your teeth and cause permanent white marks, cavities, swollen gums, bad breath, and periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth and bone loss.
While this brushing-flossing switch-up might help orthodontic patients, it's important to remember that this alone won't keep you cavity-free. It's also important to:
- See your hygienist every 4-6 months for a professional cleaning
- Floss at least once a day before brushing
- Brush for two minutes, at least twice a day
- If you can't brush between meals, rinse your mouth with water to remove as much food as possible and to rinse any sugary residue from your teeth
There are also many brushing and flossing aids to help you keep your teeth and gums as clean as possible between professional cleanings.
Interproximal brushes look like little trees and can fit between your teeth, gums, and brackets to help remove plaque and stuck food particles. Try dipping your interproximal brush in your mouth rinse to deliver an extra dose of fluoride protection between the teeth. There are also water flossers or irrigators that spray a fine stream of water to help remove plaque and food.
If you are having trouble with white marks or cavities during your orthodontic treatment, your dentist may also recommend a prescription-strength fluoride rinse.
By doing your part to care for your mouth between adjustments and professional cleanings, you can help make your time in orthodontics shorter and more pleasant.